On Friday 27th of September, we went to the streets. We gathered to march together, holding cardboard signs, chanting “climate justice, now!” When Greta Thunberg sailed to New York to tell the world’s leaders – almost tearing up – how they had failed us, we agreed with her. Indeed, we will never forgive them for not taking action. But who is this we? We are students, we are climate-conscious citizens: on Friday we protest for our future – the future of the planet. 

And so, we write clever slogans on cardboards, stating that: “The oceans are rising and so are we.” Civil movements are a crucial pillar of any democracy: holding politicians accountable, criticising their actions, engaging in the public discourse. But what happens if you tell someone they failed you, and they decide to keep on failing you? If the Amazon keeps burning and Bolsonaro does not accept international help, how do we react?

What do we do – as climate conscious citizens – when we wake up on the Saturday morning and nothing has changed?

If our protests are not being heard, the only logical consequence is to take action ourselves. Does that mean that in order to be able to call yourself a climate-conscious citizen you have to become vegan? Take the E-scooter anywhere you go? In other words, how can you effectively cut your personal carbon emission? Does it even make a difference?

If you ask Diana Ivanova from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, she will confirm just that. According to her, “between 60-80 % of the impacts on the planet come from household consumption.” The researchers Vermeulen, Campbell and Ingram, furthermore, stated that the “food [production] systems account for between 19% and 29% of the total global anthropogenic emissions” for their annual review of Environment and Resources. This might be bad news for all the meat lovers out there but, already before the Greta-phenomenon emerged, researchers stated that a “high meat diet had 2.5 times as many GHG emissions than an average 2,000 kcal vegan diet” .

Consequently, do we all have to go vegan to save our planet? Unfortunately, consumers’ choices are more complex than that. If instead of eating steak you start consuming your daily two avocados imported from overseas, your actions might be as beneficial as shared scooters, whose batteries only have a lifespan of 28.8 days. Above all else, they are a new source of toxic waste. At the same time – when it comes to carbon emissions – red meat has a greater ecological impact than chicken and fish, adding yet another dimension to our consumers’ choices. 

In the end, if our world leaders do not implement the policy changes we demand, consumers’ choices are what we are left with. And while critics might lament that changing one’s lifestyle is insufficient by emphasising the impact of huge industries, these industries are still have to make a profit: by selling products to consumers. This is something we – the climate-conscious citizens – are (or could be) in charge of.

So, if our political leaders are failing us, let us not do the same.

Let us not fail ourselves!
That does not mean that we can never ride a car, travel by plane, eat meat or anything that is not ecologically sourced and regional, buy anything packed in plastic or new clothes in general. It means to consume products consciously. If you choose to have a Sunday steak, know where it is from. Know how it was produced. The first step to a climate-friendly lifestyle is informing yourself. Know what impact your actions have for the planet.

Image in header by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay